The Politics of Regulation: Adolescent Mothers and the Social Context of Resiliency



Abstract: The experiences of adolescent mothers have too often been reduced to patterns of correlation linking teenage parenthood with low educational attainment, persistent poverty and continued welfare dependency. These analyses have reinforced representations of an “undeserving poor” and the tendency to “blame the victim” for her structural condition and her dependence on the state. Researchers in adolescent development have attempted to move beyond pathologizing frameworks by considering the “resiliency” of young mothers; yet their contributions have been limited by the tendency to reduce experience to the level of psychological coping mechanisms. In this article, I build upon more recent work as I explore the multifaceted ways in which resiliency can be interpreted. Drawing from the experiences of adolescent mothers within the care of the child welfare system, I illustrate empirically that resiliency is not an intrinsic, psychological characteristic but rather, shifts in relation to particular social contexts and policies.